House of Blues
July 23, 2023
"Thanks for coming out on a Sunday night, Houston."
It sometimes feels like bands coming through Houston haven't been here in forever. New Order went eight years between H-Town gigs. Sisters of Mercy? 15. Even Taylor Swift was six years gone before the Eras Tour. And lest we forget, many bands swinging through here are on their last go-round compltely.
Not so X. The legendary L.A. punk outfit graced our fair city a mere four years ago, and just about everything I wrote about them when they blew through here in 2019 still applies. X is also the rare band that's been around for 40+ years and is still touring with its original members. And that connection was evident in everything from their handling of technical glitches to changing up the set list.
The opener was an interesting selection: "Water & Wine" from the group's most recent release, 2020's Alphabetland, their first studio album in 27 years. They quickly followed that up with "In This House That I Call Home," "Los Angeles," and "Poor Girl," which is a hell of an opening salvo.
Like I said the last time I saw them, X are perhaps the most effortlessly cool band I've ever seen. John Doe is as venerable a punk presence as there is: the band appeared in Penelope Spheeris's The Decline of Western Civilization and made us all want to get a prison tat from him.
Never mind Exene in her dress and matching boots, resplendent in an X-branded matador jacket, D.J. Bonebrake looking rakish in his porkpie hat while switching between drum kit and vibraphone, And Billy Zoom was as cool as ever, even though he looks increasingly like Aristotle Amadopolis, the owner of the Shelbyville Nuclear Power Plant.
With any other band, you could almost accuse them of coasting. After all, X only has eight studio albums in their entire repertoire. But when you're able to launch a set with songs like the aforementioned, it doesn't really matter. Especially when you throw "Poor Girl" (one of three from More Fun In The New World) into the mix.
X kept the chit-chat to a minimum, at first, with Doe introducing a new song ("Smoke & Fiction") and a perfunctory "Hello" from Exene. Doe would eventually express his support for the Hollywood strikes (he's presumably a member of SAG-AFTRA), before asserting that everyone in attendance was lovable.
This was followed by telling us if we didn't like it we could fuck him. Punk's not dead, y'all.
The rest of the set was basically a greatest hits selection of early West Coast punk. X delivered standards like “White Girl” and “Breathless," though the greatest crowd reaction came for Zoom busting out the saxophone for "Come Back to Me."
X's adherence to their punk cred after all this time was still apparent. The band eschewed their planned encore in order to perform "Sex and Dying in High Society" for a handful of die-hards in the front ranks of the audience.
In an era when our favorite bands of yore are either hanging it up or coasting by on greatest hits tours, it's refreshing to see a group like X still thumbing their weathered noses at the establishment. I'm constantly amazed that a quartet of sexagenarian and septuagenarian punks (Billy Zoom is 75!) can keep bringing it the way X does. It's almost (but not quite) enough to forgive them for once again not playing anything from See How We Are.
In an era when our favorite bands of yore are either hanging it up or coasting by on greatest hits tours, it's refreshing to see a group like X still thumbing their weathered noses at the establishment.
"4th of July?" The title track? I'll take what I can get.
What About The Opener?
James Intveld has had a hell of a career, writing songs like "Crying Over You," playing guitar in the Blasters, and even providing the vocals for Johnny Depp's musical performances in Cry-Baby. Intveld and his band reminded me of a less marketable Stray Cats (or a more marketable Hank III) with a shot of DBTs. Rockabilly and punk are the same family tree, after all, but it was still surprising to see so many overalls in the crowd.
Or any, really
Intveld was a little noodly, when all was said and done, but set a nice cowpunk vibe that set the table for the headliners. And he hung out at the merch table during X's set, meeting and talking to fans. Seems like a stand-up dude.
Personal Bias: I've gotten to see X twice in the last four years, which is twice as many times I thought I would five years ago.
The Crowd: I suppose I need to get used to seeing the elderly in GBH T-shirts.
Overheard In The Crowd: "Jimmy! Jimmy! JIMMY!"
Random Notebook Dump: "There's a guy here who looks like the undertaker in every Western ever made."